Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Party’s Over

Nick Basham, the poster boy for everything
 that is wrong with pawnish Portsmouth politicians

The Party’s Over

The death yesterday of singer Andy Williams and an article that appeared in the Portsmouth Daily Times today (9/27/2012) titled “Layoffs Possible After State Reviews Budget Plan,” made me think of the lyrics of the  popular song:

The partys over
s time to call it a day
ve burst your pretty balloon
And taken the moon away
s time to wind up the masquerade
Just make your mind up the piper must be paid

     Yes,  the party appears to be over as far as the illegal budgetary transfer of public funds, which the City Auditor and PDT  reporter Frank Lewis continue misleadingly to refer to as “charge-offs.” Instead of calling an illegal transfer of funds an illegal transfer of funds, or an  unwarranted allocation,  to use the state auditors phrase, the city auditor has been calling  it a “charge-off” to dupe the public, and the Portsmouth Daily Times has played along with the duping, for duping helps make the party possible. According to state statutes, monies must be used for the purposes for which they were  appropriated. Charles F. Barga, Chief Auditor for the Athens Region, informed  City Auditor Trent Williams that  “Ohio Revised Code Section 5705.10(H) states that monies paid into a fund must be used only for the purposes for which such fund has been established.” Barga, incidentally,  is a Certified Public Accountant. Portsmouth City Auditor Williams is not.
What the city government has been illegally doing for years is partying on public money, using funds that were appropriated for roads, sewers,  public buildings, etc., using those largely for salaries  and benefits for themselves and other city employees. To stay in office, Portsmouth politicians have been buying off public employees by  illegally  transferring funds. Most of our elected and unelected office holders are the bankrupt pawns of local plutocrats. The denigrated  Municipal Building, a photo of which accompanied the Times article, is a dingy  monument to “charge-offs,” that is to illegal budgetary transfers. Instead of maintaining the building, the politicians for a long time  have been neglecting it.  The city council recently appropriated some six thousand dollars for engineers to make yet another study of whether or not the building is a hopeless wreck. If it is, it is a result more than anything of “charge-offs”  and recurring costs of these engineering studies of the building’s structure.
Party Pooper
The party pooper, the person who helped bring the illegal transfer of funds to the attention of  the public and state officials, is former mayor Jane Murray. Because she would not party along with the boys, because she was not a party girl, she was vilified as a witch and recalled from office. Any elected official who shows signs of fiscal sanity, and doesn’t indulge in the “charge-off” double talk,  is labeled as a head case or malcontent and is soon  out of office. Bob Mollette, who I believe may have been the most conscientious and capable city council member in the last half century, was replaced by one of the most unqualified council members in the last half century, Nick Basham, an obstreperous, bumptious, arrested adolescent who was known for throwing chairs around when he was a temper tantrum teacher and later served as the taunter-in-chief of Mayor Murray when she was in office. Now he is a budget basher.  “It really bothers me as a local elected official that first we had one plan of CIP money a local judge didn’t find palatable,” Basham is quoted in the PDT article as saying. “So we came up with another plan, and we thought this out. We worked the budget out. We came up with numbers that within years we could be back at least to a level. And now it’s almost like having the rug pulled out from under you. It’s the state telling the local government basically what you can and can’t do and at the same time telling us we can’t have a deficit. So what if we just don’t do anything with this? If we leave it the way it is, what is the State Auditor going to do?” Instead of chairs, Basham is  now throwing budgets around. How dare anyone tell us we cant continue to do charge-offs and run deficits!
What Basham reflects is the deeply rooted distrust and dislike of outsiders and the defiance of authority that is ingrained in hill culture. Steve Hayes on WNXT and Frank Lewis on the PDT help fan this incestuous Appalachian paranoia, a paranoia that our local plutocrats profit from. They don’t want anyone restricting them in their greedy accumulation of millions.  Just as states’ rights were  used historically to perpetuate slavery,  the city charter has been used to perpetuate “charge-offs” and corruption.  Budget basher Basham is the poster boy for everything that is wrong with pawnish Portsmouth politicians, and  he is the best argument for getting rid of the city charter. He’s no longer throwing half-price drink parties for disgruntled city employees in his bar, but he continues to act as if the drinks are on the taxpayers. The party’s over my paunchy friend and the piper must be paid. 

The Municipal Building, a dingy  monument to “charge-offs”

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Just Say No to Horner!

By the 2010 census, Scioto County, which covers about 616 sq. miles, has a population of 79,499. The  city of Portsmouth, on the other hand covers only about 12 sq. miles and has a population of only about 20,226. Which do you think is the more challenging job, being the sheriff of Scioto County or the captain of the Portsmouth Police Department? If Horner couldn’t handle the job of police chief, how is he ever going to handle the job of sheriff?

Scene of botched drug bust. Sergeant Horner didn't sleep here.

For some time  Horner has screwed up royally as the Portsmouth police chief. In fact, he was a screw-up even before he was chief. He was screwing up royally back in 1992, when he was only a sergeant.  In that year  plainclothes officers under  Sergeant Horner’s command mistakenly broke into the home of an elderly couple in Portsmouth who had just returned from evening church services. Had Sergeant Horner been on the scene he might have been able to point out the house where the bust should have been made, but for some reason he wasn’t there. Was the reason he wasn’t there because he didn’t want to put himself in the line of fire? Once he was told  that the wrong house had been broken into, the incompetent Horner, in an attempt to cover his own ass,  rushed over to the house his men had broken into and practically got down on his knees to beg forgiveness from the traumatized couple. Would they sue him? Would they cost him his job? Thats what he was obviously worried about. He offered to sleep overnight on their living room couch if it would make them feel safer. They declined his offer. Would it help them to sleep knowing the incompetent sergeant was sleeping on their couch, the same sergeant whose men, even after they had broken in the door and saw they were an elderly couple, continued to treat them like drug dealers? (For more on the botched drug bust, click here.)

Horner has been masquerading  lately as a sheriff, as sheriff Matt Dillon of Dodge, Kansas, but back in 1992, he did a much better imitation of Inspector Clouseau. As police chief, Horner was asleep on the job as Portsmouth gained notoriety as one of the ten most dangerous American cities to live in and as the Oxycontin capital of America. He has been figuratively sleeping on the couch as the city has gone to hell. Now he wants to sleep on the couch of the county. Neither the city nor the county should be burdened any longer by this man and his physical and psychiatric ailments. He is offering his services to the county, but like the couple in Sciotoville, the voters should, to coin a phrase, “Just say no to Horner.”

Just say no to Horner masquerading as Matt Dillon

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Jesus Walking on Water on Grandview Avenue

Jesus Walking on Water on Grandview Avenue
1. Jesus  2. Wastewater Director  3. Rat  4. Devil's Disciple  5. Auditor  6. Solicitor              
7. Unelected Mayor   8. Hepzibah

O, shit! Not another flood?
Havent they got it under control?
No, fixing downspouts was a dud,
Money poured down a rat hole.

O say can you see
The solicitor in this spoof?
The pawn of the S.O.M.C.—
Hes mortgaged through the roof.    

Duncan’s been fired more than once.
He only knows how to sue.
The rat chews out the dunce
Up to his neck in do-do. 

A preacher of pretense,
In the rear is our unelected mayor,
Because he’s terminally dense,
He doesn’t have a prayer.

Unable to add, subtract, or think 
About accounting rules he loves to flout, 
The auditor’s drowning in red ink, 
But charge-offs bail him out.

And what of that sourpuss,
The devils disciple, giving us the finger?
We wish, like Christ, we could walk on water, 
But we’re just recycled through the wringer. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Waste Water Dunces

This is a paragraph from an unsigned notice sent out by the city falsely claiming that the U.S. EPA has ordered 63 residents of the Grandview area to disconnect their downspouts. Neither unelected mayor Malone, Wastewater Dunce Duncan, nor City Solicitor Jones was apparently willing to sign the notice. For more on this issue, see former elected mayor Jane Murray's website (click here).

"With all due respect, Mr. Duncan, in your Power Point presentation, you say 'downsprouts' are causing Grandview's flooding problems, but I don't think you know a downspout from a horses's ass."

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

CoreLogic Monopoly in Portsmouth?

Mortgage Monopoly in Portsmouth?

In the comparison between Portsmouth, Ohio, and Westlake, Texas, that I made in my previous post, I emphasized the differences between the two towns. They don’t make things in Westlake, and they never have. They skipped the commercial and industrial stage that Portsmouth and many cities in the Northeast and the Midwest went through. What is now Westlake was for most of its history north Texas cattle country, but fairly recently, after a struggle between residents and developers over the future of the town, dramatized on NPR’s This American Life (click here). Westlake came to life economically as an “information-based” community.  Well west of the Rust Belt, Westlake is where they make money, or where,   more accurately, they make money on mortgages.
The way Westlake’s second largest employer, CoreLogic, claims it makes money is supplying information about the risks involved in selling or buying mortgages and insurance. But at least where Portsmouth is concerned it appears that CoreLogic’s main business is not selling information about but rather buying Portsmouth mortgages from local banks, including, and perhaps particularly, from American Savings Bank.  By rough estimate, in the last ten years or so about eighty per cent of Portsmouth mortgages were CoreLogic. Though it is not a Fortune Five Hundred company, it appears CoreLogic is  mopping up the floor in Portsmouth with the likes of Fortune Five Hundred mortgage companies like Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Fifth Third, which rank nationally among the top mortgage giants. CoreLogic looks like it’s well on its way to monopolizing mortgages in Portsmouth.

City Officials: Portsmouth and Chillicothe

Who holds CoreLogic mortgages in Portsmouth? City officials, among others. Portsmouth’s unelected  mayor doesn’t have a mortgage because he bought his house at so low a price that he didn’t need one. But the city auditor, the second most important city official, has a CoreLogic mortgage on a $134,000 house. The  city solicitor, the third most important city official,  has a CoreLogic mortgage on a $192,000 house on Willow Way, in the Hill section of the city. The solicitor paid $192,000, or about $50,000 more than the $142,820 valuation that the county auditor  placed on it. The $192,000 figure is puny by the standards of Westlake but is way up there by Portsmouth’s.) The $50,000 is a much larger disparity (35%) than usual between the county auditor’s valuation and what a home sells for.  Incidentally, there  are five other houses on Willow Way,  a short street, that have CoreLogic mortgages. Of the three members of city council who have mortgaged homes, two are with CoreLogic and the third is with American Savings Bank (ASB).  Former police Charles “Matt Dillon” Horner’s home on 28th Street does not have a mortgage, but a dozen other houses on the street do, and eleven of the twelve are with CoreLogic while the twelfth is with Bank of America.
In the past I’ve compared Portsmouth and  Chillicothe because the two cities have a lot in common. Do they have  CoreLogic in common? Apparently not, at least not among city officials. Looking at the real estate records of Chillicothe city officials, I found a wide variety of mortgages, but CoreLogic was not among them. The Chillicothe mayor has had a number of mortgages, all with Chillicothe banks, especially with the Chillicothe branch of National City Bank, whose corporate name is now PNC. It’s what I would expect a politician to do—support the local economy by patronizing local businesses, especially for an automobile or mortgage.  All other things being equal, whether you are a politician or ordinary citizen, why wouldn’t you want to support the local economy? The Ross County recorder has an extensive real estate history, which began  back in 1973. Her mortgages usually had direct ties to Ross County and Chillicothe. In the last ten years, she has mortgages almost exclusively from  the Chillicothe Fifth Third Bank. So for some time, with their mortgage choices, Chillicothe public officials have been supporting Chillicothe’s economy, not Westlake’s.
Portsmouth has a PNC branch and a Fifth Third branch in Portsmouth. but they are also-rans compared to CoreLogic. The Portsmouth Fifth Third branch resembles a poor cousin of the Fifth Third family. Because it can’t afford the spacious downtown building it now occupies, Fifth Third, under the coaxing of developer Jeff Albrecht,  has tried to persuade the city government to  move its offices to floors above the bank. But like the Marting building, the First Third building hides its age behind a deceptive fa├žade. The facade ain’t really brick at Marting’s and neither is at Fifth Third. The heating and cooling systems in Fifth Third are reportedly a problem, as is the roof. Though it is not nearly as old as the Marting’s, the Fifth Third Building is unsuitable for city offices. The taxpayers of Portsmouth would be taking not much less of a screwing if Albrecht, acting like a procurer, is able to bring Fifth Third and the city government together.

Questions Remain

Questions remain: why is so much of Portsmouth’s mortgage money ending up about a thousand miles away in Westlake when branches for Fortune Five Hundred companies, such as Fifth Third Portsmouth are  hungry for business, including mortgages. What other banks besides American Savings Bank, acting as intermediaries, and subsequently as agents, are selling mortgages to CoreLogic? Is CoreLogic paying that much more than its competitors? Shouldn’t CoreLogic’s shaky financial situation and peculiar relationship with its former partner First American be a warning sign? If there was some tacit separation agreement between First American and CoreLogic that the latter’s main business would be selling information about mortgages and First American’s would continue to be buying and selling mortgages, or mortgage notes, CoreLogic’s footprint in Portsmouth constitutes evidence to the contrary. Furthermore, First American acknowledged in its 2011 filing with the Securities Exchange Commission that the fact that it  and CoreLogic were now competitors, not partners, posed serious potential financial risks.  There is an executive, Parker Kennedy, who occupies the same position at both companies! Isn’t that a clear conflict of interest?
Is there somebody in the financial circles in Portsmouth involved in a conflict of interest, at least where mortgages are concerned? Is there some suit in some hypothetical bank in Portsmouth who, in selling mortgages to CoreLogic, is selling out the citizens of Portsmouth, and is that hypothetical bank as financially shaky as CoreLogic? And do those homeowners in Portsmouth with CoreLogic mortgages understand that they are helping make Westlake the most prosperous community in America while Portsmouth remains among the poorest? Where’s the logic in that? 
The city official who has most to explain is solicitor Mike Jones because his mortgages with CoreLogic, American Savings Bank, and the now defunct and disgraced Southern Ohio Growth Partnership are as illogical as any one persons could be. Jones has proven as incompetent in the donut business as he has in the courtroom. He appears to be a sucker for overpriced mortgages, and it would not be a surprise to see him declare bankruptcy, following in the footsteps or our  former mayor Jim Kalb, our current unelected mayor David Malone, and the next in line to be mayor, city council president John Haas. 
Somebody who might be able to unravel the mystery of Jones’s mortgage with the SOGP is Bob Huff, that defunct organization’s director, but he is not talking about Jones, CoreLogic, or anything else. Maybe he is waiting for his day in court.  On the day the new Grant Bridge opened, our hip angel of the airwaves, Steve Hayes, reported that Bob Huff, in the manner of Neal Hatcher, was giving passing motorists the finger. Now it may be Huff, left holding the bag, who is getting the finger. Huff’s home on North Hill Road, incidentally, has a CoreLogic mortgage.

Bob Huff, yet another CoreLogic mortgagee, fired for allegedly cooking the books at the SOGP